Losing a ton of weight is becoming a bit of a thing. We saw Christian Bale do it first for The Machinist, in perhaps the most insane instance, seeing as the film was not that well recieved and was a smallish affair. Then McConaughey went for it, with much more success in his Oscar winning turn as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club. Now Jake Gyllenhaal has done it for Nightcrawler, to a slightly lesser degree, in order to play Lou Bloom, the craziest cameraman you’re likely to see this side of The Blair Witch Project.
The film follows Lou Bloom as his desperate need to be a working man (and a successful and well recognized one at that) leads him into the unknown and seedy world of Nightcrawling. This involves capturing footage of horrific crimes and crime scenes, in order to sell the videos to the highest bidding news station. It’s a crazy concept, and Nightcrawler doesn’t waste any time setting the tone, with an immediate watch theft showing us just who we’re going to taking this ride with. Right from the start, I had the sense that I was going to witness one of those great performances from Gyllenhaal as Lou. I mean, the guy was a maniac in this film. The comparisons to Norman Bates are clear and justified, but Bloom is so much more than just a pyscho. He is a social outcast and disconnected man who happens to be desperate for employment. I’m talking about ambition like you’ve never seen it. The motherload of all ambition. I’d say this is one of the many overlying themes that the film presents.
The themes of the film are many, but one of the most remarkable things about the experience is that they all just melt together into one statement that the film drives home slowly, but surely, bit by bit. Writer/Director Dan Gilroy has something to say about the news, the job market, ambition and our obsession with crime, but nothing is overly forced. It’s just presented in a strange but thrilling and unique ride along style film. We feel like we’re a part of the crew, alongside Lou and his reluctant assistant Rick (played wonderfully by Rick Ahmed). The camera work during each crime scene that the pair pursue is done so brilliantly, and the suspense is built so well that each race for footage becomes more and more thrilling. It creates a situation where you’re half thrilled and on the edge of your seat, hoping they succeed and then half realizing that you hope they’re thwarted because their doing a sick and unethical thing. It’s really, really quite brilliant.
I’ve mentioned it already, but enough can’t be said about Gyllenhaal’s performance. It was one of those performances where he’ll say something insane, or deliver a monologue so perfectly, that no matter what the subject matter I just found myself smiling. Similar to DeNiro in Taxi Driver. He owned this film and he single handedly created it’s tone, it’s plot and it’s message(s). That’s not to say there’s no support though. Rick Ahmed is fantastic and Rene Russo is also really good in a role where she is almost as morally disgusting as Gyllehaal for being the happy recipient of his fabulous footage. Bill Pullman is his usual typecast self as a rival Nightcrawler, but strangely I thought his work was half ways decent too.
All in all, the film wasn’t perfect. The legality is questionable throughout, and much of it is likely not realistic at all. He’d never get away with it. But that’s just not the point. For some sticklers though it might frustrate. Then there’s the fact that the tone of film can be a little hard to settle in on. It switches between satire and black comedy and sheer dark crime thriller. This works for me and adds to the craziness, but again some people have seen this as a negative. Whatever you think about these small details, the macro here is that if you want to see an incredible, soaring and charismatic performance from an actor coming into his own, as well as a thrilling, suspense filled film with a number of shocking twists and turns, get out and see Nightcrawler as soon as possible.